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SPEECH | April 16, 2016

Bangor Submarine Ball

(As prepared)

Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command commander: Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, fellow submariners and all those dedicated to keeping our “silent service” the best in the world: Good evening and happy 116th birthday.

Boy, do we have a lot to celebrate –an incredible legacy by those who came before us, a fantastic year’s worth of submarining accomplishments built on that legacy, and some remarkable people building on that legacy.

How about a round of applause for the University of Washington Navy ROTC Color Guard?I am proud to have this next generation of Sailors among us, and I hope you will engage them throughout the evening. Perhaps there are future submariners among them.

Dave [Rear Adm. Kriete] thanks for that very kind introduction, and congratulations on being in a unique position, having a relief named for you while awaiting your next assignment.Not exactly the tactical position our wives enjoy. Sorry Kathleen.I am pleased to note that Rear Adm. John Tammen, currently on my staff, has been selected to fill your shoes at Submarine Group 9. I’m thrilled to see a line of U.S. Strategic Command alum having this Submarine Group 9 job.

As I’m sure both Dave and John appreciate, Nebraska is about as far away from water as a Sailor can get.While I enjoy its patriotic community and its strategic location, it sure is great to be back by the waterfront.

Last month I had the pleasure of being here to officiate Cmdr. James McIver’s change of command ceremony for the USS Nevada Blue and speak at the triad conference.I was also fortunate to spend some time with some of the outstanding Sailors aboard the USS Henry M. Jackson.It’s fantastic to see both boats represented here this evening.

It’s also great to see so many wardrooms, as well as Sailors and Marines from the maritime force protection unit, the strategic weapons facility, and the squadrons and maintenance, as well as the shore support staff. I’d particularly like to salute everyone from the trident training facility, in particular Lt. Phillip Johnson and executive officer, Cmdr. Darrell Lewis, for putting together this wonderful evening.

We also have a few veterans here with us, and I’d like to take a moment to thank each of them for their example, sacrifice and dedicated service to our country.

I’m particularly thrilled to have retired Master Sgt. Paul Christofferson present.He was 17 when he enlisted in 1942 and volunteered for submarine duty.

Although he eventually retired from an Army career, Paul earned his dolphins aboard USS Raton (SS-270), performing three war patrols from December 1943 to June 1944.

During these three patrols, Raton sank three Japanese merchantmen – two by the deck gun, a frigate, and a destroyer. They also scored hits on several other enemy ships including an auxiliary aircraft carrier.

As a motor machinist’s mate 3rd class, Paul had quite an adventure; perhaps that’s why he switched to the Army following the war, for something a little less stressful.

Obviously, I am kidding.Paul, thank you for your service to our nation while wearing two uniforms. You are definitely what I call “diesel-boat tough.”

I’d like to welcome your wife, Aecha, as well.

Aecha, you are truly representative of the sacrifices and demands of our joint military families at large.  It’s not lost on me that military life, particularly submarine life, can be demanding on the family.It often requires significant sacrifice, and I don’t take that for granted. Thank you for everything you have done to support your husband and our nation.

Our spouses put up with a lot and deserve all the praise we can give them. In general, they are used to being abandoned and are used to us being missing in action from time to time.But they also have to endure our lengthy sea stories and our unrecognizable jargon.The list just goes on and on.So, I’d like to recognize all our wonderful spouses, including my own bride Ms. Bonny who is unable to attend tonight.  

Let’s have all spouses stand and be recognized.

We are here to celebrate 116 years of submarine service, not just for history’s sake but because U.S. submarines have played a prominent role in the writing of United States and world history.

We have come a long way since John Holland developed and sold his seven-man submarine on April 11, 1900.This engineering marvel was powered by a gasoline engine on the surface and by electric motors while submerged.This was the manner in which our submarines ran for more than 50 years.

Consider their effectiveness during World War II – with remarkable crews demonstrating courage, commitment and perseverance.   While submarines comprised less than two percent of the United States Navy, more than 55 percent of all enemy ships sunk at sea were last seen thru the sights of a periscope.

Our submariners had the highest casualty rate of all services, and some, such as my dear friend the late Ernie Plantz, were taken as an experience of brutality under captivity as a POW.

Ernie made war patrols on the USS Perch, and it was during the second patrol that the Perch was severely damaged by depth charges.

Unable to scuttle, Ernie and his shipmates ultimately became Japanese prisoners of war for more than three and a half years. He, along with the surviving members of the Perch, were liberated at the end of the war.

What is remarkable about Ernie’s story is that he continued to serve his nation, earning a commission and retiring after more than 30 years of service to our Navy.

While our wartime submarines were highly effective, these early diesel boats were limited in submerged speed and endurance.  With advanced anti-submarine warfare technology, improved sensors, acoustics and air search capabilities – our submarines needed to evolve.

Fortunately, the vision of that eccentric then Navy Captain Hyman G. Rickover forever changed our undersea capability. The sailing of the Nautilus in January 1955 ushered in an entirely new era.Limited only by her crew’s occasional desire to see their families and sunlight, Nautilus broke endurance records for time submerged and for speed. Her nuclear power source enabled her to sail beneath the polar ice cap, and she became the first vessel to reach the geographic North Pole.

Just one year later, the USS Skate was the first submarine to surface its way through winter’s arctic ice.These polar pioneers proved that our nuclear powered submarines were capable of operating safely and effectively in this very inhospitable region.

Given the growing strategic importance of the Arctic, it’s a good thing our sub force continued to demonstrate its ability to operate in this environment, as was demonstrated by the USS Hartford and USS Hampton just last month, during a recent arctic exercise, “ICEX-16.”

Our fast attack submarines – the Louisiana, Virginia, and Seawolf – play a critical role in projecting U.S. power.

Our four SSGNs are also engaged around the globe.

Last month, Bangor’s own USS Ohio, conducted a port call in the Philippines. She provided a stabilizing force amid tensions in the South China Sea. While many SSGN missions are highly classified, they provide unprecedented strike capability and are a formidable power in our campaign against the war on terror.  This is why we are investing in the Virginia-payload modules.

I don’t think there is anyone here this evening who would argue the relevance of our ballistic missile submarines as the most survivable leg of our nuclear triad.While times have changed since my time as a junior officer on the ballistic missile submarine USS John C. Calhoun, the importance of the SSBN mission hasn’t changed. In some way, with the rhetoric and destabilizing behavior of countries such as Russia, China, and North Korea, our nuclear deterrent mission is more critical than ever.

As the combatant commander responsible for strategic deterrence, I rely heavily on the SSBN force, and I am extremely proud of the Sailors who conduct this mission 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

As you know all too well, even these incredible submarines are maturing, and their upkeep increasingly challenges our Sailors and maintenance personnel to meet my operational availability requirements.

The Ohio-class will operate for an unprecedented 42 years, six years longer than the current record for an operational submarine. I know I don’t have to tell you how challenging it is to keep your ships seaworthy and capable of sailing into harm’s way.

The seaworthiness of our submarines is particularly poignant as we remember the loss of USS Thresher 53 years ago.She was the first nuclear-powered submarine lost at sea and the largest loss of life in submarine force history.

I am proud of each and every one of you and all the hard work you put in during training, certifications, etc. so that we never have an accident like that again.Because of your efforts, our submarine force provides strategic peace for America, and indeed the world – a capability that our nation’s senior leaders rely on in national security policy and strategy.A capability they can rely on because of your impressive testing record.

Unfortunately, many Americans remain blissfully unaware that our nation routinely tests and demonstrates our strategic weapons readiness and capability in order to assure our allies and deter our adversaries.

But one such demonstration and shake down operation test just this past November, from the USS Kentucky, garnered nationwide attention when the Trident D5 missile lit up the sky over the California coast.

The atmospheric conditions were such that many out here in the West could see the spectacular trail of light from the missile.

As those who work for me know, my appetite for strategic messaging is large. So it was great to have the Kardashian sisters, and others, spark interest in this launch.They lit up the land of Twitter, “spazzing out” over their alleged UFO sighting, following the launch.Having personally witnessed this test, I can assure you it wasn’t a UFO. â€œBravo Zulu” to USS Kentucky for ensuring such a newsworthy event.

I could give you a dozen more examples, but I recognize the only thing separating you from dancing is me.

Often times at speaking events, my aide will try to catch my eye to let me know my time is up.Admittedly, I don’t always heed her signal.I find if I don’t however, that bad things can happen…such as missing my flight home tonight.

Nonetheless, I’m going to take a strategic risk because I would be remiss if I didn’t say thanks, once again, to the entire Bangor Team.

As I conclude, let no one doubt that our submarines and their crews continue to write the history book.For 116 years, our submariners have flexed and adapted to an ever-evolving complex and dynamic security environment.  

I hope I provided you a snapshot of our fantastic submarine force and what they are doing around the globe, ready to respond to our nation’s calling 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This is why it’s so important we continue to invest in the Virginia-class submarines, the Virginia-class payload modules, the Ohio-replacement program, and innovative, new packages such as unmanned systems for our submarines that will deliver the necessary effects that are so important for our nation’s future.

Once again, thank you all for coming, and may God continue to bless our Submarine Force, especially those on watch tonight, our Navy, and of course, the U.S.A!